After getting married in 2015, Sagar and Jalpa Shaw were looking to do something different with their lives and careers. They weren’t sure exactly what they wanted, but they knew that owning and operating a fun and interesting business was definitely in the cards.
“We both had fulltime jobs and were starting a family as well,” Sagar said. “We were open to any kind of business and it didn’t have to be a paint studio, but we did want it to be something that people would enjoy and really like. We were dedicated to making it thrive and we believed it was necessary to be successful with the business.”
The result was Uncorked, a wine-themed BYOB event space and art school in Asbury Park.
Sagar said he had been successful throughout his life, which he attributes mostly to his parents who raised him to work hard and apply himself with all of his aspirations. “There is an Indian mentality to my background and culture,” Sagar said. “I was always very driven and goal-oriented because I had that support system from my parents and family. I was always pushed to study hard and do well in school. A lot of our people become doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. That same mentality motivated me past just doing well in school and even in my career. It carried over to the way I interact with and treat people in general.”
He graduated from Rutgers Law School in 2008 and opened his own law firm. “The market for hiring attorneys was not great at that time,” Sagar said. “It was in the middle of a recession, so I had to be very careful about how I managed it as a successful business. “I started the firm with two of my friends from law school and the three of us went out on our own. We had two offices in central New Jersey and we did real estate law and transactional work, as well as litigation and things like that. That was my first experience as a business owner and it got me familiar with the whole process and the ins and outs of how to run a business.”
After doing that for some time, the lawyers found they were having some trouble building up a good client list and establishing a name for themselves because they were so young. “It was great while it lasted, but we realized that it was better to just go out and get jobs individually after a while. I came across an opportunity for a Wall Street position at Deustche Bank and I was really interested, so I got the job, closed down the law firm and started my job there. I have been there ever since.”
Even though Sagar was happy with his job on Wall Street, he was still interested in doing something different and more fun on the side. He and his wife juggled some ideas between the two of them and, after looking at some businesses in Asbury Park, they landed on Uncorked, which already existed.
“My wife and I took over the business after buying it from the original owner in 2017. The premise of the business is a combination of painting and drinking wine. For me and my wife, it was a match made in heaven.”
“We checked it out, learned the ins and outs of the business and hired some art teachers to run the store,” Shaw said. “We are not artists ourselves, so we figured it would make more sense to hire someone with experience in the field. After doing that, we ran the business and have been happy to watch it thrive every day.”
Before the pandemic, Shaw and his wife would let people come in at their leisure during the summertime and allow them to take painting classes while enjoying a wine of their own choice. After COVID-19 hit, Shaw made some changes to the overall format for getting customers to frequent his business, so it was safe and easily accessible.
“Right now, we have people sign up for the classes in advance online,” Shaw said. “We relay all the necessary information to the art teacher and he or she comes in and runs the show from there. It is essential that customers register on the website because we are just not at that point of comfortability with people just walking in. We need to be safe and know the amount of people that will be attending ahead of time on a regular basis.”
Uncorked offers courses in the evening during the week and during the day on the weekends.
“There will be anywhere from five to thirty people signed up for the class, depending on the day of the week,” Shaw said. “We allow people to come in with groups and they can kick back and enjoy their favorite wine, which they can bring from home. The artists are very experienced and they will set up all of the supplies, so that customers can prepare for the class before everything gets underway.”
“It is a very nice, party-type atmosphere for the customers and we like them to feel as comfortable as possible. “Everything starts out nice and easy, as the artists will walk the customers through the basics and get them familiar with how everything works. Once everyone gets into the gist of everything, it’s all smooth sailing from there and people have a great time painting while drinking their favorite wine.”
Uncorked was forced to shut down last March as a result of the pandemic and that was tough for the Shaws and the business.
“I was having to take money out of my own pocket,” Shaw said. “Our landlord was accommodating and let us defer a couple of months payments and that was really helpful. That has since been paid back. There was just no way for this business to make money if no one was coming through the doors. It’s just one of those businesses where we must have a physical clientele to prosper.”
“Once they told us that we could open our doors in July-August, business started to pick up little by little. “It was very slow because people were still very hesitant to come out and frequent this business, but it did happen. In the last three or four months, people have started to come around and come in willingly. We instill social distancing and wearing masks is optional. All in all, everything is starting to turn around and return to normal.”
Laura Gigantiello, a 34 year old returning customer of Uncorked, is happy with her experiences so far with Uncorked and everything it has to offer. “It’s very close to home,” Gigantiello said. “Even if you are not the most artistic person, the artists work with you and ensure you have a good time painting and enjoying yourself during the sessions.”
Deep Raole, 27, is not much of an art person, but he was turned onto Uncorked through his fiancé and enjoys the experience. “We wanted to find something that we can both do together,” Raole said. “It’s very relaxing and we always have a good time. It’s nice to compare the finished product to other people taking the class because we’re all following the same steps, but the end product is different for everyone.”
The Shaws are now looking toward the future with plans to invest more time “We see ourselves devoting more time to this business,” Sagar said. “We want to advertise a little more through social media to continue to get our name out there. Once more people see this and learn about it, they love the idea and have fun with it. We just want to spread the word.”